From the Green New Deal to a wide range of innovative technologies and new ways of thinking, the Zak World of Facades Conference is in New York today, offering discussion topics that address the future of the architectural facades industry.

Ahad Ahmed, director of the Zak Group, welcomed the crowd of architects, designers, façade contractors, glazing industry suppliers and more. He provided a history of the conference, which began in 2012. The conference is in New York for the second time, offering a larger agenda and broader portfolio of topics.

Ahmed described the event as the world’s largest for the façade industry, as it has been in 31 countries.

“There is a great demand to know more in the world of facades,” he said. “… it’s the curiosity that has spurred the growth of this conference series … every event is special and every region is a challenge,” he said, explaining that they try to blend [the topics] into the needs of that respective country and they try to create the agenda around that.

Dan Kaplan led the presentation “Glass City Versus Mass City” during today’s Zak World of Facades.

He was followed by Attila Arian, president of Schuco USA, the top supporter of the conference. Arian mentioned some of the challenges the industry is facing today, such as increasingly complex design, declining budgets and increasing pressure on the code side.

“We need to improve the built environment; this is a necessity, our moral obligation,” he said. “ … We need to put our heads together and come up with solutions.”

For example, he said, green buildings are a part of this.

“Climate change is real and there is a responsibility right in front of us,” he said.

Other challenges, he said, include buildings that are behind schedule and over budget; using modern technology can help bring improvements in these areas.

“There are collaborative tools that will dramatically change the environment in which we are operating,” he said.

Dan Kaplan from FXCollaborative led the first session on the agenda, “Glass City Versus Mass City,” providing discussion around the initial reaction to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call to “ban” all glass buildings.

Glass, he said, stands for many attractive features and benefits: innovation, dynamism, optimism, transparency and productivity. He pointed out, though, that as architects create designs for highly transparent buildings, the problem can be that “the renderings lie … they are not all transparent and bright … we need to be more honest.”

He continued, “Architects love to put glass around all four sides [of the building], but orientation is very important and it makes a big difference in energy use; glare is also an issue,” he said, explaining there are three things that are needed to move forward. First, he said, is the need for better glass and frames at a price point that’s acceptable to the marketplace. Second is orientation. “We, as designers, need to get better at tuning our buildings to the environment. We need to develop an aesthetic that deals with the differences in orientation … [use] glass where it counts … where there are views and orientations …”

Christoph Timm with SOM moderated today’s panel discussion addressing the Green New Deal in New York.

And third is a change in mindset. “We tend to think of heavy and opaque together … what if we cross pollinate?” he suggested. For example, light and opaque, bringing a sense of light and opacity/mass and solid.

As he concluded, he added, “I do think de Blasio has a point and I do think we need to think more about the effect of the all glass buildings, but also the effect on our city … we can create a more strategic, resilient and well-loved city.”

Today’s program also included a panel discussion on the Green New Deal in New York. Moderated by Christoph Timm from SOM, panelists included Patricia Hauserman, with AECOM Tishman, Deborah Moelis with Gensler, Erleen Hatfield, with Hatfield Group, Michael Bischoff with Pei Cobb Freed, and Christian Bailey with ODA. Panelists discussed changes they’ve seen since the law was enacted, as well as what they expect to see in the future.

Speaking of what’s happened since the law, Bishcoff said one good thing is that there’s been more early discussions.

“It’s bringing up things that should have been brought up before … [there’s] more of a focus on issues we’re trying to address,” he said.

Hauserman said it seems that some clients are not yet vested or informed about what’s going to happen so it’s up to architects to educate.

Speaking of education, Moelis added owners look to the architect and the engineers to design the building to meet the codes.

“If we can bring that to the table, that’s how we serve our clients,” she said.

Timm also asked panelists about what they would like to see as far as new products and technologies.

Bischoff said a lot revolves around the glass in buildings. For example, single glazing evolved to double glazing “and what drives these changes is the market,” he said, pointing out the opportunity for triple glazing. He said the new law could push the market so there is more demand for triple glazing, and that will drive down the cost and creating a possibility for a whole range of products

Hauserman said she would like to see something more in photovoltaics, which tend to be tabled by clients because of the cost.

Timm added, “If you improve the performance of the facade with new technology, of course it costs more … but this may be compensated by limiting radiators or smaller mechanicals … I think we as architects have to steer the building process into a holistic approach …”

Timm also asked the panelists for their outlook on what they think the next generation of New York City building will look like. “Is the all glass building dead?” he asked.

Bailey said he didn’t think it was dead, but rather they will be doing more with less.

Moelis added, “We’re lowering the energy use of buildings … making them healthier.”

Hatfield added that the curtainwall buildings will not go away, “but the amount of glass will be less,” she said, noting that facades will be incorporating additional design elements.

As Timm wrapped up the session, he added, “There is a lot we need to learn.”

The Zak World of Façade conference concludes today. Stay tuned to USGNN™ for more updates and reports.